Miami Beach Senior High Loses Principal to Cervical Cancer, School "Devastated"

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Beach High has lost its greatest "mom." The school's longtime principal, Rosann Sidener, lost her 13-month battle with cervical cancer this week. Students and staff are dealing with the difficult loss.

Last night, more than 300 mourners showed up for a candlelight vigil on Dr. Rosann Sidener Way.

Maria Sahwell, Beach High's college adviser, says Sidener (or "Doc," as she was often called) continued her spirited leadership throughout her fight with cancer.

"Everything seemed to be OK," she tells Riptide. "I don't think anyone knew how dire the situation was."

Sidener began chemotherapy and radiation right away. She even traveled to Houston for an innovative treatment.

"She was spunky; she could never sit still," Sahwell says. "But we all knew she was in a lot of pain."

Last night's vigil brought people from as far away as North Florida to honor the late principal.

In 2007, Sidener was brought on board to rejuvenate a school that desperately needed some TLC. She came into an "old building where things were rundown," lead teacher David Guthrie tells the Miami Herald.

In just a few years, she took the D-rated Beach High back to local prominence with a shining A state grade.

"She was a role model," Sahwell says. "As a teacher, as a leader, as an administrator... but most of all, she taught us how to deal with her illness. You could ask her: 'How are you feeling, Doc?' and, no matter what, she would say, 'Great.'"

The FCAT, which was scheduled to be administered this week, was postponed following the news of her passing, and students have been offered grief counselors to help them cope.

A ceremony at this year's graduation is expected, but as of now, no further plans for memorials have been discussed. "It's truly devastated everyone. We need to bring closure," Sahwell says.

As a former student of Dr. Sidener's, I agree that Doc would prefer her community to return to business as usual as quickly as possible after this kind of news. "Celebrate life and get back to the routine" is the kind of lesson she taught.

In my senior year of high school, I won a first-place district science award on behalf of my alma mater. I was told to pick up the gold medal from Doc's office. When I arrived, she was sitting there, eagerly waiting to give me a hug and congratulate me on my accomplishment. The first thing she said was: "You've made your High Tides proud." Then she asked her secretary to take a photo of the two of us with the medal. In a flash, one of my fondest moments with Dr. Sidener was over. Moments later, the proud mom in her vanished, and as a school principal, she kindly asked me to race back to class. She was a woman of many hats.

"I'm going to put my mom hat on," Sidener would often start announcements over the PA system. She's a mom that the students and faculty of Beach High will never forget.

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